Freight forwarders do not actually move freight. Rather, they act as an agent and intermediary, assisting companies in finding the right shipping service for their needs.
Using a freight forwarder simplifies logistics. The company will handle arrangements with all of the required transport companies for any trip. They have arrangements with trucking companies and air cargo businesses alike. Freight forwarders may also help with import and export regulations and clearing customs.
They may also offer advice on logistics and help determine the best route and whether goods should be moved by air or sea. They are often particularly important when it comes to ocean shipping. Although their services are not cheap, they ensure that the client gets a good deal from all of the carriers and does not have to worry about the costs associated with handling their own shipping. Costs such as vehicle maintenance and container rentals can all be handled by the forwarding company and the carriers it works with.
Freight forwarders may have standard rates, but often offer services on a competitive quote basis. They often develop long term relationships with specific carriers and airlines. These relationships can allow them to get cheaper service, although they do take their own markup.
Using a freight forwarder to handle cargo shipping, however, is worth it for many companies in terms of the time saved. They also often deal with insurance, warehousing and risk assessment. They are particularly useful when a business lacks the in-house resources to understand the varying regulations that affect long distance and international freight.